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Thursday Night Football Preview – Colts at Jaguars

MJD will need a big game for the Jaguars to beat the undefeated Colts.

Indianapolis (13-0) vs. Jacksonville (7-6)(7:20 PM CST, NFL Network):

“Is it time for Mercury Morris to pop up in discussion yet?”

The Colts have already wrapped up the AFC’s top seed for the playoffs, with their win last week against the Broncos.  In doing so, they also set records for consecutive single season wins, with 22, and victories in a decade, with 114.  The Colts recent history would indicate that it is now time for Peyton Manning, and other Colts starters, to hit the cruise control for the rest of the regular season and rest up for the playoffs.  Manning will start, get his reps in to keep his consecutive games streak alive, and then pass the ball along to whoever their backup QB is (which is currently Curtis Painter, because usual backup, Jim Sorgi, is hurt)… not so fast my friends.

Rookie head coach, Jim Caldwell isn’t ready to pump the breaks just yet.  He keeps claiming finishing the season is not one of his top priorities, yet he is playing all of his starters in a game this week which means nothing for his team?  To me, that doesn’t sound like he doesn’t care about finishing undefeated.  Peyton Manning has to love this, as he has stated numerous times that he hates missing any game-time for any reason.  He’s also coming off a week where he threw three interceptions, and looked a bit shaky against a solid Broncos team.  This is not good news for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

However, you have a match-up this week of a team gunning for history in the Colts, against a Jacksonville team that is in control of their own destiny.

The Jaguars are an interesting story in the NFL this year.  Sitting at 7-6, they will probably need to win all of their next three games in order to earn a playoff spot.  If they lose it could still happen, but they would need considerable help from other teams.  Their offense revolves around RB Maurice Jones-Drew.  When he is good, the Jags look tough.  If he is off, they look as beatable as any team in the NFL.  The Jaguars are 6-2 when Jones-Drew rushes for over 75 yards.  He will have to get it going this week, after being held to only 59 yards last week.  When Jones-Drew is at his best, he opens up the passing game for the Jags also.

Last week, when Jacksonville’s running game was halted, QB David Garrard completed under 50% of his passes and was sacked three times.  However, even with the up and down offense, it’s the Jaguars 26th ranked pass defense I am concerned about in this game.  They are going to have to show up, and play out of their minds if they intend on keeping Peyton Manning in check for this one.

The Jags are ranked 26th in the league in pass defense, and the Colts love to air it out.  The Colts have given up over 100 yards rushing each of the last three weeks, and the Jags love to run the ball.  The Jaguars are fighting for the playoffs, and the Colts are shooting for the first 19-0 season in league history.  I think this is going to be one the best games of the week.  This is a game the Colts should win on paper.

What to Watch for:

Indianapolis: Will the Colts’ starters really play this week like they have all season?  If so, can Peyton Manning get back on track?  He’s looked so good for most of the season, but has thrown an unusual amount of interceptions in recent weeks.  Can the defense hold up?  They have been battered by injuries all season, and have fought hard.  However, they have appeared a bit slower their last couple games.  Maybe injuries are catching up to them a bit.

Jacksonville: Three letters for the Jaguars playoff hopes… MJD.  If Maurice Jones-Drew is running on all cylinders, I think he will have a huge game.  He’s going to have to if he wants to see some playoff action this season.  The Jaguars only totaled 217 yards of total offense last week, so they are going to have to get it together this week if they intend on making the playoffs.  Never count a team hungry for a playoff birth though… never…

Betting Line: Colts -3

Over/Under: 43

Prediction: Colts will win and cover. Take the under.

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